Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OJ Did It, Murdock Did Too

"All of journalism is a shrinking art, ... So much of it is hype. The O.J. Simpson story is a landmark in the decline of journalism." Dick Schaap

As much as I believe OJ Simpson is guilty of murder, and as much as I deplored the idea of his latest assault via a graphic book, I also believe halting its publication was a big mistake.


Hello? We live in America. Not Nazi Germany. Not present day Iran or North Korea.

We have a United States Constitution and a Bill of Rights which guarantees us--ALL of us--certain Inalienable Rights. One of the most precious is Freedom of Expression.

Any time I hear a publishing house announce that printed copies of any book "will be destroyed" I get the willies. Bigtime.

Let's not get into the merits of "If I Did It." OJ's a scumbag, but once he became a published scumbag, his work should have become inviolate.

No book should be destroyed as a result of public pressure.

Of course OJ's not in the same league--or planet--with the genuine literary lights of this or any other century. Yet remember how many books of Henry Miller, William Faulkner, Truman Capote (In Cold Blood is particularly relevant here) and literally hundreds, if not thousands more authors were burned.

Wrong. Dangerous.

We are free to read and therefore learn from Hitler's anti-Semitic, anti-social ranting in Mein Kampf. From Chairman Mao's anti-Western "Little Red Book", a veritable paean to rigid repressive Communism. The abusive, perverted, cruelties and barbarism in the erotic writings of the Marquis de Sade.

OJ Simpson isn't in de Sade's league ... wait, maybe he is. But we'll never know if his publisher withdraws and destroys his book as an empty PR gesture. In a sense, how very American. Respond to potential commercial ruin by caving to public pressure.

Which brings us back to Rupert Murdock, who never met a piece of trash he couldn't squeeze for every dollar. His pulling of OJ's book wasn't based on sensitivity to the victims' families.

It was all about profit motive. Murdock decided it would be a commercial failure after a huge public outcry over its publication.

I think Murdock was wrong. Everybody claimed to be sickened by OJ but--surprise!--his trial was watched by millions. It became a huge commercial success, a windfall for Court TV, network news and print journalism here and abroad.

People would have bought and read OJ's book too. Especially if Murdock made sure all the profits went into a fund for the Goldman family, who successfully sued OJ in a civil trial and won a large judgement he hasn't yet paid.

If not through the book, OJ will pay some other way. Mark my words, he and the book will be back.

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